BRIGHT IDEAS

written by CHRISTOPHER POEHLMANN, designer/maker
portrait photography BRYAN LATHROP

Christopher Poehlmann, CP Lighting


Icannot pinpoint the day I fell in love with Design with a capital D, but certainly the year. It was 1985. I was studying photography in Europe. My eyes were opened to new possibilities, my mind was blown. That feeling has ebbed and flowed throughout my adult life but it has never gone away. I have built my life and living around making objects that interest and engage me, and I have been super lucky to have found an international audience with whom my work resonates.

Over the years I have found that my passions for various forms of the decorative arts have often been on the leading edge of trends. Sometimes, as in the case of creating sustainable design from upcycled and cutting-edge materials, it has been well in advance of popular culture. Beginning in 1989, sustainable practices have taken an important role in my work, not typically in an obvious way like “look at me, I’m recycled” but in a far more important background role of leading by example: recycled, upcycled and sustainable materials and practices can be embedded within most designs without being obvious. Couple that with making durable goods that are intended to have long, possibly multi-generational lives as opposed to planned obsolescence, and you have my formula.

Thanks to a greater understanding of what we humans are doing to the earth and our environment, along with advances in LED technology and a larger appreciation and understanding of the designed object, I have been able to build a successful and sustainable business over the past three decades. Innovation often plays an important role; sometimes that takes the form of figuring out how to take an early LED spotlight now close to 20 years old and make it into an ambient lightbulb-like fixture; or, further back, discovering a simple and sustainable way to upcycle discarded plexiglass to create a line of light fixtures that still resonate to this day.

Other times, it is simply innovation of form: I began my work in what is now known as Rustic Modernism (aka Modern Rustic and Organic Modern) way back in 1994 with a series of tables and chairs made from solid steel rods embossed with a wood bark pattern. These nature-inspired pieces were more sculptural than literal interpretations of nature. That body of work has inspired numerous iterations and explorations in my overall output, including my most regarded body of work, the “newGROWTH” series. “newGROWTH” has been the staple of CP Lighting going on 15 years and has taken on many forms because we custom-build every fixture with input from our clients to suit their specific needs. We have built numerous chandeliers in this series for dining rooms, great rooms and entryways, and also every size from small wall sconces and massive 30-foot-long fixtures for commercial and hospitality spaces. Although I am certainly one of the generators of this idea of combining rustic ideas with modern minimalism, I always keep in mind that being inspired by nature is far more universal. I find it generally gratifying to see other interpretations of this concept. Power in numbers, after all.

A love of organic, irregular forms and new technology has brought me to this new series that I present here. LED technology is constantly evolving and I was recently introduced to a new rope lighting concept by one of my suppliers. I had already been working on my Loopy series, which consisted of long chandeliers made from aluminum pipe that I run through a ring roller. Though like many things I do, I use this machine for purposes other than it was intended for. I twist the pipe so that it is rolled into semi-controlled, semi-random forms. Again, with innovation and inspiration, I just cannot help myself.

Stitch Pendant

Looped Stitch Pendant

Stitch Chandelier

These fixtures are then lamped with a long LED tube light cutting a line straight through the wabi-sabi curvilinear fixtures, which are typically painted in bold colors. This new silicon LED tube lighting that was presented to me suddenly had the potential to be the flip side of the Loopy Lights! Instead of the traditional use of bent neon tubes, I could make solid aluminum bodies that would be able to be draped and theoretically sewn with continuous loops of light. Our new Stitch and Loop series was born. Examples here are the Stitch Chandelier, Stitch Pendant, and Looped Stitch Pendant.

These fixtures can also be seen on Instagram @cplighting and soon will be added to our extensive catalog on cplighting.com.

Christopher Poehlmann is a Philadelphia-based maker, father, writer, curator and occasional teacher. He has connections to Maine through the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, where he taught a class in lamp design and has also curated a show on decorative light fixtures made from wood, showcasing an international group of designer/makers.

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 cplighting.com

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